Statesman; born in Boston, Mass.
, Jan. 6, 1811; graduated at Harvard College in 1830.
Appointed a reporter of the United States Circuit Court, he published Sumner's reports
(3 volumes), containing the decisions of Judge Story
He also edited the American jurist
, a quarterly law magazine of high reputation.
For three winters, while Judge Story
was absent at Washington
, Mr. Sumner
was lecturer to the Law School at Harvard
, and his familiar theme was constitutional law and the law of nations.
In 1837 he visited Europe
, travelled extensively on the Continent, and resided nearly a year in England
Bearing a complimentary letter to the latter country from Judge Story
, he was cordially received, and was introduced by statesmen on the floor of the House of Parliament.
In 1840 he
returned to Boston
, and in 1841-46 he published an edition with annotations of Vesey's reports
His first participation in active politics was in 1845.
On July 4 he delivered an oration before the municipal authorities of Boston
on the True grandeur of Nations
At that time war with Mexico
He denounced the war system as a means for determining international questions, and declared that it ought to be superseded by peaceful arbitration.
This oration attracted much attention, led to much controversy, and was widely circulated in America
This was followed by many public addresses on kindred themes, and his reputation as an orator, suddenly created, made them widely and thoughtfully read.
He then first appeared as a public opponent of slavery, and opposed the annexation of Texas
because he believed it was intended to extend the boundaries of that labor system in our country.
From that day until his death Sumner
was an earnest advocate of the emancipation of the slaves.
In 1846 he addressed the Whig
State convention of Massachusetts
on The Anti-slavery doctrine of the Whig party
, and soon afterwards published a letter of rebuke to Robert C. Winthrop
, Representative in Congress from Boston
, for voting in favor of war with Mexico
He finally left the Whig party and joined the Free-soilers (see free soil party
), supporting Van Buren
In April, 1851, Mr. Sumner
was elected by a coalition of Democrats and Freesoilers in the Massachusetts legislature to the United States Senate, to fill the place vacated by Daniel Webster.
He took his seat Dec. 1, 1851, and kept it by successive re-elections until his death.
He was recognized as the leader in all antislavery movements in the Senate, and his political action in the matter was guided by the formula “Freedom is national, slavery is sectional.”
He took a very active part in the debates on the Kansas
His speech on The crime against Kansas
took two days in its delivery, May 19 and 20, 1856 (see page 460). Some passages in it greatly incensed the members of Congress from South Carolina
, and one of them, Preston S. Brooks
(q. v.), assaulted Senator Sumner
while he was writing at his desk in the Senate chamber
on May 26.
with a gutta-percha cane and dealt him such a blow on the head that he fell insensible upon the floor.
From this blow he never fully recovered.
rewarded for this act by his constituents with the present of a gold-headed cane and a re-election to Congress.
In the Senate in January, 1862, Senator Sumner
argued that the seizure of Mason
was unjustifiable, according to the principles of international law. His voice was heard frequently during the war in defence of the national policy, and in 1865 he pronounced a eulogy on President Lincoln
In April, 1869, his speech on American claims on England
caused great excitement and indignation in Great Britain
, where it was supposed to threaten
war and an attempt to excite popular feeling against that country.
In the same year his opposition to the scheme for the annexation of Santo Domingo
to the United States
brought him into collision with President Grant
, and led to Sumner
's removal from the chairmanship of the committee on foreign relations in March, 1870.
He afterwards separated from the Republican party, and supported (1872) for the Presidency the nominee of the Liberal Republicans
and Democratic party—Horace Greeley
He opposed General Grant
's renomination, and at a convention of Democrats and Liberal Republicans held at Worcester
in September, 1872, he was nominated for governor of Massachusetts
He was then in England
in search of health, and declined.
He returned home and to the Senate late in 1872, and in the course of the session he introduced an unpopular bill, which drew from the Massachusetts legislature in 1873 a vote of censure.
It was to remove from the regimental colors of the army and from the army register the names of battles won by Union troops in the Civil War
. The vote of censure was rescinded in 1874, a short time before his death, in Washington, D. C.
, March 11, 1874.
See Kansas, Nebraska, Civil rights bill
Sumner the statesman.
United States Senator George F. Hoar
, of Massachusetts
, has given an analytical review of the public career of Mr. Sumner
, dealing in large measure with the qualities that are essential in true statesmanship.
The following is the substance of Senator Hoar
's points and conclusions: